Courtesy Reuters

Power in a Sieve

Americans tend to think there is a solution to every problem. In a corollary-equally misleading though not unnatural, given the unrivaled material strength of the United States-they imagine that when the problem is international the solution to it will be American. Most international problems, however, do not have final solutions. Only a Carthaginian peace is final; and short of that, as even unconditional enemy surrenders have demonstrated, the distribution of rewards and punishments soon turns out to have results very different from those the victors foresaw or desired. Applying these truths to the situation in Viet Nam, we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that there is not a final solution to the war there; that neither a preliminary nor a lasting solution will be determined by the amount of force which we are able or willing to use; and that in neither case will it correspond to our idea of "victory."

Although the physical strength of the United States has grown phenomenally since shortly after World War II, our direct and usable influence in the world has not kept pace. We have immense military power, but the nuclear core of it, however indispensable in maintaining a balance of terror with the Soviet Union, is power we are powerless to use in remote situations of danger where our national interests, real or assumed, become involved. Pronouncements from Washington have not always made public opinion realistic in this respect. Military spokesmen are not in the habit of minimizing the effectiveness of their weapons or the wisdom of their strategy (although some of our most experienced battle-tried commanders have recently done so in very plain language). Political leaders faced with winning a war or an electoral campaign find it expedient (usually, that is: Churchill did not, nor did F.D.R. always) to sustain morale and gather support by issuing optimistic reports and predictions, minimizing risks and deficiencies and explaining failures to live up to prophecies by assurances that the causes have been

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